On December 10, 1999, I was in Havana and went to see the demonstration in favor of repatriating Elian from the USA to Cuba. The ambiance was one of festivity and not the somber demonstration I had expected to see. This, however, does not mean that the participants of all ages did not have a view on the issue.
Most of the people that I spoke to about the situation felt that it was a bad situation for all involved, especially the mother and the stepfather. There was considerable sympathy for the father. "The boy," they say, "belongs with his father." The paradox is that some of the kids on the street were making a play on words about the situation.
"Send me to Miami and I will send Elian back by plane."
"Elian, remember my clothing size."
"To survive in Cuba, you must have 'fe'. Fe in Cuba stands for two things: faith and familia enstranjero, or family overseas (family that can send money and clothes to their relatives in Cuba.)"
Wall located in Havana, Cuba.
The poster on the left displays Elian's picture with the following caption: "Return Elain to Cuba!"
Many of the demonstrators were bussed in from the countryside, as one could tell from the uniforms that teenage students wore. Many kids were brought by school buses to the 'Malecon', the avenue that runs along the coast in the heart of Havana. On the day before this demonstration, I saw buses lined up in caravan formation making their way to yesterday's demonstration in the same location — in front of the building housing the American interest section in the Swiss Embassy along the Malecon.
Many held posters of the boy. Others had small pieces of paper with the boy's picture and a slogan to return him to Cuba. Many people had paper Cuban flags glued to rough wooden sticks. There were large flags draped from balconies and an extremely large banner with Che Guevara's face on it.
There were several members of the military and young teenagers in military schools. Families were walking from all parts of the city to get to the demonstration. After the demonstration, people were lined up waiting for city buses to come — too many for the next bus or two to carry.
In sum, the mood was more like a party than that of a sad occasion. After all, these manifestations had been going on all week. One person said that, for the past few days, little if any work had been done.
The loud speakers carried music of the revolution and speeches of various people. Every so often the crowd would cheer and raise their placards and Cuban flags. Weaving in and out of the crowd were men and women selling peanuts for a peso a pack (5 cents), and some other sweet food was being sold. Water trucks were providing water to the crowd if they had brought a container with them.
I left just past dusk. The students were leaving then also, many running back to catch their buses back to school or to home.
Photo Gallery of Demonstration in Cuba